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Wind ordinance review a slow process; Changes likely for local ‘wind farm’ law

The Henry County Commissioners, along with two representatives in favor of and two representatives with concerns about “wind farm” development, spent more than four hours Wednesday reviewing the county’s current Wind Energy Conversion System (WECS) ordinance.

The WECS review process involved commissioners Butch Baker, Kim Cronk and Ed Yanos. They were joined by concerned citizens Rosalind Richey and Gary Rodgers, as well as local resident David Chambers and Amy Cornell, an attorney with Calpine, who are both in favor of bringing industrial wind turbines to Henry County.

Calpine is one of three companies interested in developing wind farms in Henry County. The other two are NextEra and Apex.

The review committee managed to scrutinize just 10 of the 27-page WECS ordinance line by line, noting those things they agreed on, those things they were willing to compromise about and those things they could not come to terms on.

Chambers described the exercise as a useful but necessary and time-consuming process, and indicated his belief that the concerned citizens involved in the process want to stop wind farms from being developed in Henry County.

“I lot of proposals that were made for changes were coming from the opponents and … (they) are obviously trying to get something in the WECS ordinance to preclude or eliminate the possibility of a wind farm in Henry County instead of looking at compromise. That’s just my opinion,” he said.

Chambers, a resident of Harrison Township in northwest Henry County, has a meteorological tower on his property and is interested in having a wind turbine as well. A meteorological tower contains various instruments that measure, among other things, wind speed and consistency in any given geographical area.

Rodgers has been vocal about his concerns regarding wind farms, citing possible links to a myriad of health problems as well as a decline in property values. He also shared his thoughts regarding Wednesday’s meeting.

“The process is laborious and it’s very, very detailed,” he said. “We found a number of things on which we all agree … but there are some real decisions that are going to have to be made by the county commissioners, because who we’re really negotiating with is the wind energy companies. The wind energy companies want the requirements to be as loose as possible and we want them to be as tight as possible to protect the general well-being and the health and safety of the citizens of Henry County.”

It was commissioner Cronk’s idea to review the WECS ordinance again. A failed attempt by a committee created by the Henry County Planning Commission took place earlier this year. Cronk said he thought Wednesday’s meeting was productive.

“We were able to receive good input from both sides of the issue,” he said. “The process was a little slower than we expected, but time is not the issue. We just want to make sure we do it right and that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to get as much input as we can. Everyone was very cordial and it seemed to be a positive process up this point.”

The meeting was recessed at 2:20 p.m. following a 10 a.m. start. Discussion of the WECS ordinance was scheduled to resume at 3:30 p.m. Thursday in the old circuit courtroom on the second floor of the Henry County Courthouse.

Cronk said after the entire ordinance has been reviewed, all areas of agreement and compromise will be considered. Any areas where the two sides could not come together will be the commissioners’ responsibility to sort out.

After the county leaders have completed the review process, they will send recommendations for changing the ordinance to the county planning commission, which will have the option of adopting or rejecting the recommendations, or the planning commission can choose to do nothing. Ultimately, the commissioners will have the final say in the matter.